INGRAM IDEA BOARD
What types of street improvements look good to you? Should we bring them to Ingram?
COMPLETE STREETS: DESIGNING STREETS FOR EVERYONE
What does "Complete Streets" mean?
The term “Complete Street” refers to street design that accommodates safe use and access for all users, not just drivers. The types of improvements this plan will consider fall under this description.
For decades, street design standards have focused on providing sufficient space for moving vehicles quickly, but often without similar infrastructure and space allocation for other modes of transportation. The movement towards reimagining “Complete Streets” acknowledges that catering to cars alone has led to an increase in speeding and crashes. Streets that don’t provide designated and protected space for pedestrians and bicyclists leave those users either dependent on cars for even short trips, or placing themselves in harm’s way as they attempt to cross the street. “Complete Streets” are designed for everyone, from young children to the elderly, and the able-bodied to those with limited mobility.
There is no one-size-fits-all design for complete streets; each street should provide the access and modes suited to its location, users, and overall community context. A fundamental philosophy of Complete Streets is the idea that design influences behavior. In other words, people tend to drive the speed the street design tells them to. Signs, signals, and other regulations are minimally effective; they impose rules and penalties but they are not self-enforcing (especially when the road feels comfortable to drive on at faster speeds).
Where excess space exists in the a given street, a Complete Streets approach reallocates that space to serve more users, and maximizes the functionality of the street.
Sidewalks, safe and highly visible crossing points, and narrowed drive lanes are common baseline components.
But... don’t just take our word for it! If you want to learn more, visit the many excellent resources prepared by NACTO, available at: https://nacto.org/publication/urban-street-design-guide/streets/
...or by the National Complete Streets Coalition, available at: https://smartgrowthamerica.org/program/national-complete-streets-coalition/
WHAT DO SOME COMPLETE STREETS ELEMENTS LOOK LIKE?
Crosswalks are everywhere--even when you can't see them! Under PA law, every intersection is a crosswalk, whether it's marked or not. Of course, sometimes it makes sense to not mark it based on usage, poor sight lines, etc.
But, there are a lot of times when you absolutely want to mark a crosswalk, which you often see with parallel lines or high-visibility (zebra, piano key, etc.) markings. These markings alert drivers to expect people crossing and to be ready to stop if needed.
In order to provide an extra level of safety and visibility to a crossing, the next step is to raise the entire crosswalk to sidewalk level (rather than asking people walking to ramp down to the street). Doing this accomplishes a couple of things. It elevates the person walking to make them easier to see by drivers and it creates a ramp in the street that forces drivers to slow down as the approach. Clear signage completes the package!
Curb extensions (often called bumpouts) are real complete streets multi-taskers!
They are an effective tool to improve overall street safety by reducing the turning radius for vehicles, meaning drivers have to make tighter and slower turns. This also has the additional benefit of preventing people from parking too close to the intersection where on-street parking exists. When cars are close to the intersection, it's harder to see people waiting to cross the street.
Speaking of people walking, curb extensions also narrow the overall width of the crosswalk, meaning a crossing can be faster and safer, thanks to people spending less time in the intersection.
Finally, curb extensions often create new space for things like plantings, benches, and other items.
Sidewalk space doesn't always need to just be a strip of plain concrete. While providing enough space for people to safely walk or roll to their destination is a minimum standard, sometimes there is space left over for other items that make the street more useful or pleasant.
Adding street furniture like bike racks, benches, community information boards, planters, decorative lighting, etc. can not only make a street feel more lively, it can help with safety.
When a street's travel lanes are narrower, people tend to drive slower. When additional items are placed near the street (in addition to trees), it further narrows drivers' field of vision, which causes them to drive at a more appropriate speed.
This idea is the opposite to how you'd design a highway--obstructions are to be avoided and field of vision expanded in order to keep vehicles moving quickly and safely there. We shouldn't design our neighborhoods that way, though!
There is a certain charm to brick and block streets. Ingram residents know this quite well, though! Besides being nice to look at, streets paved with materials other than the usual asphalt and concrete have safety benefits no matter which mode of transportation you use.
The slightly (and in some cases very) uneven surface of brick streets provides more tactile feedback to drivers, which causes them to slow down. Sometimes it's due to just the vibration you feel in the car, and sometimes it's because of the higher noise the surface puts out. Either way, drivers subconsiously go slower.
Slower vehicles means easier to cross streets for people walking. Accommodations may need to be made for people biking (brick streets are less great for bikes, but asphalt strips along the curb's edge can help) and people with disabilities (crosswalks should be smoother, with level surfaces).
Additional Toolkit Items:
Every corner must have a safe, clearly identifiable place for everyone using wheeled mobility devices to cross the street. It's a basic amenity, and it's the law! They must have a special texture at the edge, called a tactile warning surface, that lets people with know they are approaching the street.
Parking places aren't just convenient for drivers looking for a place to stop; sometimes a row of parked cars can provide a good buffer from moving traffic for people walking on the sidewalk. Bonus points if the parking lane is made up of a different material from the main roadway. This helps to differentiate the spaces and visually narrow the travel lane.
Think of chicanes as mid-block curb extensions. They make the driving lanes weave a bit left and right, which forces people to slow down as they navigate the street. It does this not only because of the slalom-like effect, but also because it narrows your field of vision (especially if there are trees along the street).
Roundabouts / Neighborhood Traffic Circles
Some intersections can benefit from small traffic circles that force drivers to slow down as they approach and make left turns safer (they can't be taken at sharp angles) as they circulate around the center of the intersection. This tool virtually eliminates t-bone (side angle) crashes, though care must be taken to ensure pedestrians have good visibility and safe places to cross.
Best employed on neighborhood streets that are in a grid pattern, diverters can force motor vehicles to turn at certain intersections to create more "enclosed" neighborhood streets that discourage cut-through traffic. Diverters do let people walking and bicycling through, though, and create additional paces for landscaping, benches, and lighting!